Calamity Jane, York Grand Opera House

WHAT calamity had befallen Jane, I wondered, as the audience were kept waiting before being admitted to the auditorium on the first night at the Grand Opera House? Happily, any technical hitches were quickly sorted and it was onward to a whip-crackaway evening in the wild, wild west as Jodie Prenger's sharp-shooting, plain-speaking frontierswoman got her man.

Director Nikolai Foster follows his fabulous White Christmas at West Yorkshire Playhouse with a touring stage version of a musical best known through the Doris Day/Howard Keel movie. You know, the one with songs such as Secret Love, The Deadwood Stage and the ditty about just blowing in from the Windy City.

Jane eventually swaps her buckskins for a dress in order to win over the man she loves after some kerfuffle about her telling tall tales and dragging a famous musical star from Chicago to perform for the rough but appreciative citizens of Deadwood City .

Jodie Prenger delivers a star performance as Calamity, a woman proving the equal of any man around until she finally admits that Wild Bill Hickok can load her gun anytime he likes. She's an instantly and immensely likeable performer whose joy at being on stage is infectious. And she can belt out a song with the best of them too.

Tom Lister is more than a match for her as Wild Bill, displaying a fine leading man singing voice and sense of humour that was never required of him in his years as Emmerdale's Carl King. But the star names this is essentially an ensemble piece with a sterling cast of actor-musicians as adept as handling a saxophone as a gun. It's a production that hits the bullseye fair and square.

  • Sunderland Empire, March 3-7. 0844-8713022 and
  • Darlington Civic, May 12-16. 01325-486555 and

Steve Pratt